I had one (solid state preamp) hooked to my tube amps a couple months ago...sounded great. I was not in the market and only giving my opinion to someone regarding the preamp.
The system still sounded like tubes BTW.
Either way works I use a tube pre with a ss amp with great results. Impedence matching is important but beyond that no issues.
I've had all combinations of SS/tube preamp/amp. I think in many ways my favorite was SS pre and tube amp. Try it different ways and choose whichever sounds best to your ears.
Gsm, FWIW, my basic philosophy of system composition is this:
1.) Use excellent SS gear up front for precision and transparency. Besides, tube preamps and tube phono preamps always produce some tube hiss. And unfortunately, electrostats or other highly revealing speaker systems, will reproduce this very well.
2.) Use an excellent tube power amp(s) to enjoy the harmonics, timbre, and decay that even the best SS amps never quite manage to provide. And unlike tube front-end stuff, good tube amps are just as quiet as SS amps (no tube hiss.).
The only problem with tube amplification is bass control. There's no economic advantage IMO for buying a humongous tube amp to drive either a hybrid electrostat (with woofers but no built-in bass amp) or any full range speaker with full low bass capability. The damping factor to the woofers will still be limited. Therefore, I think it better to spend the monetary difference (between a small and large tube amp) to biamp instead, with a mid-priced SS amp for the bass (like a Bryston) and use an excellent (but modest power) tube amp for the mids and highs, which is where tubes work the most magic. And as Dave indicated, the system will "still sound like tubes."
Anyway that's my two cents ;--)
Good post above by Nsgarch, to which I would only add it is usually much less expensive to retube a tubed preamp than a power amp, and the tubed preamp generally gives off much less heat. Also, the bass control issue extends to tubed preamps as well as power amps, with a few exceptions, although even the really good ones do not equal the bass control and definition of the best SS preamps. However, it is very hard to equal the dimensionality and harmonics of a tube amp or preamp when using SS.
without specififying one's sonic objectives it is difficult to answer the question.
i will try.
all components are inaccurate. therefore, pick your "coloration". do you prefer a more euphonic, less detailed presentation ? do you prefer transparency ??
answering the above questions can help anyone assist you in your quest.
Robert Harley stated two things about preamplification in the latest edition of his book (The Complete Guide to High End Audio) that caught my attention. Don't quote me on this as I am working on memory, but first, was that he perferred to keep the tubes as close to the source as possible and second, that in theory, if done correctly, tube and SS preamps should sound the same.
I don't know if that would apply in practice, but my experience with tube and solid state preamplication combined with SS amplification is that in my system they are very close with the tube pre being a tad smoother on the top with better soundstage depth and the SS having greater bass control and extension. I am sure with tube rolling, the results will vary quite profoundly. Can't wait to try.
My experience matched Nsgarch's. I would only add that a possibility at the power end of things might be a hybrid. There are a few, including AVA (which I use). Depending on the rest of your system the right hybrid may provide the best of what tubes and SS can both offer to drive a speaker.
I'm of the school of thought that tubes sound the best when used at the source, or as close to the source as possible.
I've tried tubes down stream in the chain, preamps etc, and IMHO thought they sounded far superior at the source.
1st, it is definitely not true that tubes "always" hiss or are noisy in other ways. Completely untrue. It IS true that it is easier/cheaper to make a quiet SS preamp than a tubes one. However, my new Supratek unit is absolutely dead silent and so are many other good ones. Battery-powered tubed units from Dodd & Welborne may be the quietest linestages, period (I'm not sure, but maybe).
2nd, tubes used "at the source" are *usually* nothing but an buffer stage. IOW, the tubes are doing but impedance-matching and are, in my view at least, theoretically redundant. And, other than a slight "softening", sonic effects seem to be rather restrained.
3rd, why must the myths of "bad" tube bass persist? It's always a matter of the speaker interface. Tubes, push-pull or single-ended, with the right speakers (and this doesn't mean just highly-sensitive speakers) can produce the best bass you'll ever hear. Nothing at all inherent to the topology that prevents that. The highest damping factor simply isn't always best - over-damping that truncates decay is not a good thing unless your definition of good is the hardest bass, not the most musically truthful bass. I've heard these differences myself on many amp/speaker combos.
Wow, I'm sounding like a tube N*zi, which I'm not - I just hate the perpetuation of these myths.
As for solid-state and tubed preamps "theoretically" sounding the same, that's a non-statement if I've ever heard one.
My preamp is made specifically for my amps. With the stock tube, the bass output (especially the lowest registers) is less than it was with either of my two SS peramps. Assuming the manufacturer did his homework, why less bass? Could it be the type of tubes (JJ Tesla 12AU7)? I would love to experiment with fuller sounding tubes if there is such a thing.
I agree with Paulfolbrect, My tubed preamp (Audioprism Mantissa) and tube amps (Rogue M-120 Magnums) have great bass in my system...the Rogue amps replaced a Krell Kav-500 a little over a year ago, bass is at least on par with the "little" Krell.
The Rogue amps aren't the bass master that my Krell Ksa-250 is, but why should they be?...120 watts VS. 500 watts.
BTW....no hiss, or noise at all